The incredible rise of Granada - from relegation to facing Man Utd in 4 years

  The Spanish minnows will be big underdogs in Thursday's Europa League quarter-final first leg against the Red Devils - but don't w...

 

The Spanish minnows will be big underdogs in Thursday's Europa League quarter-final first leg against the Red Devils - but don't write them off just yet

In one of Spain’s most enchanting cities, something magical is happening.

Granada is well-known for its architecture, tapas and all-round beauty, but it’s fair to say tourists have generally not tended to flock from far and wide to watch their football team.

Indeed, Granada CF are historically not even one of the biggest three clubs in the region of Andalusia, and have long lived in the shadow of Sevilla, Real Betis and Malaga.

Until now.

Because on Thursday, they will host the mighty Manchester United at their unfashionable 19,000 seater Los Carmenes stadium in a European quarter-final.

And the majority of their modestly sized fanbase will no doubt be pinching themselves and asking how this ever happened.

Granada’s tale is a similar one to that of Leicester City.

They have spent the majority of their history yo-yoing between La Liga and the Segunda, and after six years battling relegation from Spain’s top flight they finished bottom in the 2016-17 campaign.

They came tenth in the next season, and looked destined for a spell treading water in the lower leagues.

But all that changed with the appointment of the inspirational Diego Martinez as manager.

The 40-year-old was a relatively unknown figure having only previously had backroom roles at Sevilla and a brief, unsuccessful stint as head coach at Osasuna.

But he made an immediate huge impression at Granada, guiding them back to La Liga in his very first season after they finished second.

The little-known Diego Martinez has been an inspiration for Granada 

And even more amazingly, they took that impressive form with them into the following campaign, securing European qualification for the first time in the club’s history with a seventh place finish and also making the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey.

So what is Martinez’s secret?

Former Tottenham striker Roberto Soldado, who now leads the line for Granada at the grand old age of 35, said of Martinez and his technical staff in an interview with Europa League magazine: “They’ve totally transformed things.

“They’ve revolutionised the internal workings, and the club’s growth is largely down to Martinez and the belief the dressing room has in his work.”

Martinez has said himself that he favours “high physical fitness, a well-organised team structure and use of width for attacking.”

Former Tottenham striker Roberto Soldado has impressed for Granada 

This is a side that do not rely on an individual star, but instead all work as a cohesive unit, with every man knowing exactly what his role is on the pitch.

The fact that the most expensive signing in their current team is forward Luis Suarez (not that one!), who cost just £6.75m from Watford, only makes Granada’s tale even more extraordinary, and their rise to the top is nothing at all to do with splashing the cash.

Their impressive return season in La Liga was far from a fluke, and they currently sit in a respectable ninth place.

But it is their debut in the Europa League where they have truly caught the eye.

There is great excitement in the city over the arrival of United
After finishing second in their group they went on to knock out Napoli and Molde to get this far, and are now looking forward to the biggest game in their history against United.

Of course, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side will be the strong favourites for the tie, and will expect to comfortably progress to the semi-finals.

But Granada have nothing to lose, and will be hoping they can take their dream even further and create their biggest scalp to date.

Write them off at your peril.




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